All dressed up and no where to go
‘Port’ is a simple story. It takes place in Stockport and follows Rachael between 1988 and 2002, jumping from one life event to the next in a Robert Winston ‘7up’ kind of way. It is very much a modern story, how hard times affect people already at the bottom, hard on their luck and going nowhere. It is an examination of a place and a time. The posters boast the returning collaboration of playwright Simon Stephens and director Marianna Elliott, but it is far from ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.’
Rachael Keats, played by Kate O’Flynn, is a typical Stockport girl with a humble wish: to leave. There are attempts and plans that are never quite put into motion, even the actress barely leaves the stage, growing up and maturing in front of our very eyes. This constantly raised the big question; why doesn’t she leave? Maybe Stephens has done it, that infamous modern tragedy, as Howard Barker described, an ordeal where the hero must earn his death throughout the play. In this case, Rachael must earn her exit but it is only herself in her way.
I am in two minds about this production; it was raw and bittersweet but lacked a punch. It reminded me of an A-Level practical exam, a simple chronological structure that focuses and rotates around that one girl that can act. There were things unsaid and wasted words, events we’ll never truly understand. Nonetheless, Stephens dives straight into the very heart of the matter, to reflect on who we are and where we come from, we never truly leave our hometown, it is part of who we are.
I felt a little underwhelmed, I wanted to believe that Rachael would leave but she couldn’t. But isn’t that the point? Isn’t that the point of ‘Waiting for Godot’? Isn’t that the point of ‘Hamlet’? We are all talk. No one in Stockport try for their dream, some don’t have any, but never try, never fail. Stephens shows there’s no silver lining in Stockport, yet he and director, Marianna Elliott are both from Stockport, prime examples of leaving and success. Theatre used to transport us to exotic land, now we are reminded of the hardship and poverty in our own country. Rachael doesn’t earn her exit, but she doesn’t deserve her fate.